Smile Back Training Center opens new location


By Sheryl Roadcap

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PIQUA — Smile Back Training Center officially opened its new gym in its new location on Monday, March 11, at The Piqua Center.

“It’s amazing. Like wow. We can actually move. We can actually stretch out. We can do so many things,” Smile Back co-owner Johny Conner said of opening their new gym. “We were doing the same exact classes with close to the same number of people in a smaller facility and we were on top of each other, and having the space to breathe … there is so much room for activity.”

“It’s surreal. It’s amazing,” his wife/co-owner Chelsea Conner added.

On Thursday, March 14, The Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Piqua officials and The Piqua Center helped Smile Back owners Johny and Chelsea Conner celebrate opening their new gym with a ribbon cutting ceremony at The Piqua Center, formerly the Miami Valley Centre Mall.

“Owned this gym for over 15 years. It was always kind of run as a — we don’t make money, we just kind of train whoever comes through. The gym is where I met Chelsea. Chelsea was one of my students and then we got together and got married and had this little guy,” Johny told those gathered, while tapping their 4-year-old son Leondias on the head.

Johny first opened the training center in his personal gym at his Piqua home under the name Fightopia. In 2014, Chelsea joined the gym and Johny began training her as a fighter. A year later they became a couple and then married in 2017. In 2022, the couple changed the name of the gym to Smile Back Training Center and moved its location to a space on North Wayne Street in Piqua.

“Johny is a former fighter. He was in two professional fights. Then a knee injury ended his career. He is the head coach. He has this way of putting you in a “God” mode. Puts so much confidence in you even if you lose. He helps instill that confidence. We first had a close coach/student relationship,” Chelsea said of Johny and his coaching style.

Chelsea is a professional LFA (Legacy Fighting Alliance) MMA (mixed martial arts) cage fighter who smiles when she fights, especially when hit in the face. So when trying to decide a more welcoming name for the gym, they decided to name it after a frequently used hashtag Chelsea uses on her Instagram account: #SmileBack.

“In June 2022, we named it Smile Back because Fightopia isn’t as inviting as Smile Back is. We kept the name Fightopia for our competitive fight team. That is something that is very dear to our hearts; we will never take away that name,” Chelsea said. “Fightopia is an amazing name for a fight team, it is very powerful. But Smile Back is kind of our motto in life also. Stay smiling; let the negative stuff go and stay positive. In our upbringing, we weren’t the super popular kids, so the way we deal with adversity is we smile back at that.”

Chelsea also explained that when she gets hit, she smiles back at her opponent as a way of communicating that they haven’t gotten to her during the fight.

Smile Back Training Center offers numerous classes which are all lead by an instructor; Chelsea instructs many of the classes. The menu of classes includes: boxing; women-only kickboxing; Gi BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu); grappling; wrestling; women-only cardio; strength, speed and agility; and, youth boxing -for ages 6-11. Johny said they are looking to add Silver Sneaker classes hopefully in the future once they become certified to offer to mall walkers who come to The Piqua Center.

“We take a lot of pride in the women’s-only classes. Some women don’t feel comfortable training around men; I do, but I know many women do not, so we wanted to make sure we offer a space where they feel comfortable,” Chelsea said.

She also explained the gym developed out of the love for what she does. Chelsea trains basically everyday, even with light cardio on her off days.

“The (career) goal is just to do what I love. It’s never been about making money or anything. It’s just about what we love. Now I am at a stage in my life where I want to offer this to other people younger than me,” Chelsea said.

Fightopia held two fights previously at the Duke Building at the Miami County Fairgrounds and one at The Piqua Center recently. The next group of fights in the EGO Boxing Series will be held again out front of their gym at The Piqua Center on April 20. For more information to obtain tickets, pay attention to Smile Back’s Facebook page at .

The gym is closed on Sundays, and hours vary based on class times. Currently, the first classes usually begin around 4 p.m. and the last class usually ends around 9:30 p.m.

The Conners admit Smile Back’s website at needs updated, as they have been busy with construction and changes at the new location, but in time it will reflect up to date information. For information about class times and pricing, call Johny at 937-451-9455 or stop out in the evenings at The Piqua Center at 987 E Ash St, Piqua.

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